5 Reasons Birth Family Members Search For Adoptees

There are a myriad of reasons why birth family members are seeking to find a relative placed for adoption or in foster care.

Jennifer Mellon August 29, 2016
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As the founder of the only nationwide network of licensed private investigators, we have birth relatives calling us daily seeking to locate an individual placed for adoption. During my tenure as Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services, I regularly experienced calls from people seeking any direction in where to start their search for an adopted family member. There are a myriad of reasons why birth parents, birth grandparents or birth siblings are seeking to find a relative placed for adoption or in foster care. These include:

1. Closed Adoption Records

During the post-World War II baby boom era from 1945 through 1973, it is estimated that approximately 4 million mothers in the United States placed a child for adoption. Closed adoptions were the most prevalent during this time. Many times, the biological father was not even recorded. Sealed records from the adoption often prevent biological family members from having ready access to non-identifying or identifying information on the adopted individual. This secret or confidential adoptions lead many birth family members to search for those who were adopted.

2. Medical Information

Many people think of only an adoptee’s desire for medical information and do not acknowledge that birth families may desire to share their own medical findings as they arise. Biological parents or siblings who have been diagnosed with a hereditary illness or who are carriers for a genetic trait may seek to share that information with the adoptee. They also may seek information from the adopted individual regarding their own health history to help them map their own.

3. Late Discovery – Father, Sibling or Grandparent

“Late Discovery Adoption” is a controversial term referring to individuals who learn they were adopted only once they reach adulthood. Late discovery can also happen to a biological father, sibling, or grandparent who may not have been privy to the birth mother’s pregnancy or adoption placement. Learning that child, sibling, or grandchild was placed for adoption can be very emotional. Often this discovery leads birth family members to begin their search.

4. Birth Parent Emotional Impact

The impact of any adoption on a birth parent, whether closed or open, is great. There can be feelings of grief, shame, guilt, and identity issues. The effects of the adoption can permeate other relationships. Searching for the child placed for adoption can alleviate the lack of closure and constant wondering about the child’s wellbeing or whereabouts. Sometimes just discovering that the child is alive and well, without the need or desire for a reunion, can relieve or help birth parents work through these emotions.

5. Reunion

Many birth family members begin the search for an adopted relative with the desire for it to end in a reunion. Meeting the child, sibling, or grandchild placed years ago is something about which many birth family members fantasize. As a generation of parents who placed their children through closed adoption age, they seek to meet their child before the end of their lives. Many siblings think about the brother or sister they have never met. They desire to meet their potential biological nieces or nephews and maybe establish a relationship with the sibling and their family.

Whatever the reason, searching for your biological family member who was placed for adoption can seem daunting. The journey may not be an easy one. There may be obstacles along the way. Finding the information you seek may take longer and be more arduous than you originally imagined. Take heart that you are not alone. There are thousands of others just like you seeking to meet or learn about their adopted family member. Beginning this journey may be the best decision you ever made. A great place to start is on the Adoption.com Registry or by contacting an Adoption Detective.

For help in your search, visit the new adoption search and reunion website for adoption information.

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.


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